ARKANA UPDATE

A brief compilation of Issue 2 Notes from the Editors.

by the Arkana Staff

Issue 2 has been live for about a month, and we as the Arkana staff have had plenty of time to reflect on the work in our last issue. Here’s what our genre editors are saying about Arkana and our second issue:

“We sought a synthesis of the real and the ideal.”

“To me, this is the important work of Arkana: fully committing to diversity in a way that goes beyond mere lip-service or checkmarks in boxes.”

“When we get a piece that shows us a slice of someone’s experience that we’ve never seen published elsewhere, or a piece that opens up an exciting thinking space—like a hidden passageway in an old familiar library—that’s when the staff starts having conversations.”

“The characters in these stories are survivors.”

“We read each piece that is submitted and publish excellent prose with a clear voice that elucidates people’s real lives.”

“There was a feeling that we had touched common humanity and heard voices we needed to hear that we hadn’t exactly heard before. There was an awe that always accompanies the taking in of good art.”

“We trust our contributors to be the experts of their experience.”

“Please tell a struggling artist how much their work means to you. We all need to know that somebody is listening, that somebody cares.”

“We want to hear your voices. We want to continue to hear the voices that have been silenced, but speak to us and bring us the awe.”

Comb through our editor notes to read more about how our second issue came together and what it represents—where does Arkana stand in the modern world and publishing industry? As poet Oliver de la Paz said in his interview with us (included in issue 2), writing can be a time machine. It can transmit the past, transform the present, and transport us into the future. So make sure to take a look!

And submit, submit, SUBMIT! We want to read your work, see your passion, hear YOUR voice. We probably won’t be reading work until the school year, but we accept submissions on a rolling basis—so send ‘em our way whenever they’re ready. We can’t wait to get started on the next issue!

Follow our blog for periodic behind-the-scene updates, notes from the editors, and personal musings from our staff. Head on over to our main website for submission guidelines, more info about what exactly Arkana is, and just to read and/or listen to (because we have a brand new audio feature) some great new literature.

We’re so glad to have you—go to arkanamag.org now!

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Issue 2 Notes from the Editors: Poetry

A reflection on Arkana‘s first year in poetry.

by Drew S. Cook, Poetry Editor

Last month, the second issue of Arkana dropped, and we in the poetry section had a lot to be happy about. We had two new readers join us, and it was great to have more eyes and thoughts on the pieces that we selected. It was also a sentimental moment for me, since I expect that this will be my last issue as Poetry Editor. Not having any predecessors, I had no one with whom to compare my contributions. Perhaps I did well; perhaps I did not. In any case, as a team we did manage to publish some well-made, affecting work from varied identities and points of origin.

To me, this is the important work of Arkana: fully committing to diversity in a way that goes beyond mere lip-service or checkmarks in boxes. The world of poetry is like any other industry: there are people who have power and people who do not. There are matters of fashion to consider, and there are practices ascendant and descendant. There are cliques, and there are pressures to conform. As a Poetry Editor, I have felt a duty to consider these things, for even though I have, since grade school, found myself aligned with unpopular, unloved children, there is also a need to build platform, to attract readers. After all, without readers, we have not succeeded in giving voice to the voiceless. Rather, we have only dragged them from one silence to another.

I do hope that I have succeeded in finding balance between appealing to poetic orthodoxy and lifting up voices that have been excluded by that orthodoxy. In the second issue, I feel that the team established a pleasing variation between traditional and more contemporary presentation. We additionally managed to lift up varied perspectives based on geography and identity. In other words, we sought a synthesis of the real and the ideal.

The specific poems that the team chose for the second issue were all in keeping with Arkana’s mission. That is, they reflect the team’s respect for the dignity and variety of human experience. They also reflect a general lack of interest in the tyranny of the fashionable. I do not have any idea whether these poems would appeal to any particular tastemaker or school of thought, nor would I like to find out. In the end, we can only hope that you will see them as we do: as well-constructed, affecting works of art. I cannot speak for my successor, but, to me, there is nothing else that matters more.

Thank you, fellow reader, for joining us in this new adventure. Please continue to submit. Please tell your friends to submit. Please keep reading. Please tell your friends to keep reading. Most important, please tell a struggling artist how much their work means to you. We all need to know that somebody is listening, that somebody cares. Be that light in another’s life. See you when issue three hits!


Read or listen to the poems included in Arkana’s Issue 2:
“Creative Writing in Oman”
“Flea Market”
“Don’t Forget Aleppo”
The poetry contest winner: “Poem for Thalia”
“When Can You Come”


Drew S. Cook was born in Ouachita Memorial Hospital near the banks of the Ouachita River.  His hometown of Hot Springs is cradled by the Ouachita Mountains and lies east of the Ouachita National Forest. The sights and voices of that region continue to inform his writing. Drew studied literature and philosophy at Hendrix college before moving to Ohio, where he did information technology work in manufacturing plants for over a decade. Drew has since returned to Arkansas to study writing at the University of Central Arkansas. His interests include pentameter and lithium. Drew’s poems have appeared in PleiadesBear Review, and elsewhere.

Issue 2 Notes from the Editors: Nonfiction

A brief note on writing and Arkana‘s nonfiction process.

by Jacqulyn West, Nonfiction Editor

I’ve finally learned to answer “yes” when people ask, “are you a writer?” Since I don’t write fiction and have a tenuous relationship with poetry, it’s seemed like a stretch to say what I’ve been writing is what others consider writing. Serving as Arkana’s nonfiction editor has changed my perspective and boosted my confidence, both about calling myself a writer and about nonfiction as a laudable and important genre.

Over the course of our first two issues, we’ve read over a hundred nonfiction submissions. We’re looking for pieces that fit our mission to publish work by people whose voices are not often represented in media, or work that challenges us to look at things with a new and different perspective. Many of the works we’ve received and read are good prose, but they don’t bring the fresh take or unusual aspect that we’re looking for. But when we get a piece that shows us a slice of someone’s experience that we’ve never seen published elsewhere, or a piece that opens up an exciting thinking space – like a hidden passageway in an old familiar library – that’s when the staff starts having conversations. “Did you read that piece? Could you believe they said that?! I’ve never heard anyone describe it that way. We should publish this!”

As a genre, nonfiction is nearly everywhere, from your shopping list and refrigerator notes at home, to personal ads and obituaries in the newspaper, to more formal and familiar essays and think pieces that describe or explain a person’s perspective or experience. Since nonfiction proliferates in our everyday lives with devices in our purses and pockets and screens everywhere, we’re dedicated to our search for the “mysteries and marginalized voices” in Arkana. We want to be the place where conversations start about ideas that folks have been carrying around without articulating, or where conversations continue about passionate concerns among our contributors and readers.

If there’s just one take-away I hope our blog readers and potential contributors get here, it’s that we trust our contributors to be the experts of their experience. We read each piece that is submitted and publish excellent prose with a clear voice that elucidates people’s real lives.


Check out the two works of nonfiction included in Arkana‘s Issue 2:
“An Opening Closed to the Public: A Black Lesbian Separatist at Play”
“Pruritus”


Jacqulyn Harper West is a poet of unfinished parts who prefers writing nonfiction. Her heart is in classic country music, especially the Bakersfield sound, and her scholarship ranges from feminist explications of her hometown’s cultural heritage tourism sites to code-meshing and hip hop as texts in first-year and creative writing pedagogy.

Issue 2 Notes from the Editors: Fiction

A story about the fiction included in Arkana Issue 2

By Cassie Hayes, Fiction Editor, and Liz Larson, Fiction Reader

A thing is incredible, if ever, only after it is told.
            —Eudora Welty, “No Place for You, My Love”

We’re going to tell you the story of the stories that the Arkana fiction editorial team chose for inclusion in our second issue. Is the story of the stories incredible? No. Not really. No golden beam of light came down to shine heavenly light upon any one of the four stories included. No angels sang. There were no trumpets or burning bushes or any other foolproof sign that said we have to publish these, that it is our moral responsibility to share these stories with the world.

But there was a haunting feeling left over after we read them. There was a feeling that we had touched common humanity and heard voices we needed to hear that we hadn’t exactly heard before. There was an awe that always accompanies the taking in of good art.

We had many exceptional fictions submitted, and we were hard pressed to make the tough choices. Believe us, every editorial team loves that kind of problem.

We noticed the uptick of diversity of submissions for this issue. Thank you submitters for listening to our mission statement, and keep that coming, please. We want to hear your voices. We want to continue to hear the voices that have been silenced, but speak to us and bring us the awe.

In the end we had to just go with the stories that worked together, forming a unified whole of themes and ideas. Because we have such sunny personalities, the four stories we ultimately chose deal with death. There’s a strange darkness to every one of them, but also a stiffened lip, “there’s no storm we can’t weather” sort of feeling too. The characters in these stories are survivors. Survivors who, like only survivors can, see and celebrate the beauty of life.

“Central Park: A Ghost Story” involves a strange attraction in blinding snow, the struggle to keep warm, to see, and to get back home. “Falling Season,” our contest winner, similarly involves attraction, strange because of societal norms, and the struggle to overcome the death of a parent. “The Winter Cabin,” our contest runner-up, like all the other stories, deals with attraction in the face of death—in this case a terminal illness—and also like the other stories shows nature as a dynamic force surrounding the characters. Finally, “Follow the Sun” portrays a woman determined to keep moving after the death of a spouse, facing ageism, poverty, and plain old bad luck.

Reading submissions and choosing which pieces to accept is a humbling experience. Yes, humbling. Far from the Judgy McJudgypants persona you might think of in regards to editors at literary journals, we are not of jaundiced eye. More often than not, we feel the awe. Then, after the awe, we cut our eyes right and left, nervously making sure no one has seen our hand, that we actually care very much about the work we read and our submitters. But alas, our tells are loud and we give lousy poker face.

We can’t hide our excitement about these stories. Every time we open up a new submission, we find new complexity—that richness of experience that unfolds when you get to meet another voice. There are always new ways of seeing things, fresh perspectives, and just damn good prose that await our not-so-jaded eyes.

There’s also a feeling of being connected to the larger literary world when you’re getting to read submissions and publish wonderful stories like the four included in this issue, and that feeling is very humbling. We have a responsibility to publish work that both fits into the current literary landscape but also pushes the boundaries of contemporary fiction and society. Stories, when they are shared, can bring human beings together like nothing else, bridging ideologies and backgrounds and fostering empathy. Like the mythic Jacqulyn West, Arkana nonfiction editor, chanteuse, and wicked raconteur wrote in her blog post “Arkana Rooted in Diversity”: We’re all in this together, and we want to represent.

The story of the stories is hardly awe-inspiring. Behind-the-scenes production, getting the art out into the world, involves all the dull bits of reality that the art itself tends to cut out. Reading through submissions, emailing each other about the work, trying to pick four stories out of a plethora of good pieces, inputting those works on WordPress, sending out contracts, etc.

Hardly incredible, even when told.

But, still meaningful. After all, our main goal as an editorial team is not to have a great story, but to share the great stories we come across with you. And that duty and privilege, at least in our humble opinion, is incredible and awe-inspiring.


Check out the four works of fiction included in Arkana’s Issue 2:
“Central Park: A Ghost Story”
“Falling Season”
“The Winter Cabin”
“Follow the Sun”


Cassie Hayes is a fiction writer and sometime taco-maker from Waxahachie, Texas. She graduated with her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Texas at Arlington and now attends the Arkansas Writers MFA Program and interns at the Oxford American.
Liz Larson is a member of the Arkansas Writers MFA Program at the University of Central Arkansas. She is a bigly believer in risk-taking. Though fearful of falling down, she will do it with aplomb.

Arkana Represents

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The Impact of AWP, Past and Present

by Mikayla Davis, Poetry Reader

In 2014 I attended my first AWP in Seattle, planning to meet up with one of my creative writing instructors and some classmates from community college. I didn’t know what to expect, having only ever been to anime conventions in the past. But I was just starting to think about grad school, and a writers’ convention seemed like the perfect place to explore my options. If nothing else, I knew my undergraduate institution would be in attendance. It would be nice to gather with old friends and get their take on my plans.

So I made my plans, booked my hotel, scheduled out what panels I wanted to attend. I drove five hours across my home state.

Turns out, planning for panels was a misguided decision—as I became completely enthralled by the Book Fair. There were rows upon rows of booths and tables. There were probably at least fifty tables in each row. They filled this huge hall.Graduate schools, magazine publishers, businesses. People were wandering around, buying books, talking to people behind booths. There were author signings and readings, though the latter couldn’t be heard over the buzz of conversation. I spent hours there, just wandering and looking…but I rarely actually approached the booths, and no one tried to draw me in.

Three years later, I had the opportunity to attend AWP again—this time, manning a booth representing the University of Central Arkansas’s MFA program, the C.D. Wright Women Writers’ Conference, and, of course, Arkana.

My one goal was to engage with participants who, like me in 2014, were just wandering…wanting to ask questions, but not knowing how.

But how does one motivate others to visit your booth, when your budget is limited, and you have three major organizations to try and promote?

This is where my many trips to anime conventions came in handy.

If you’ve never been to one, I can tell you that they are bright, loud, and incredibly exciting. Think about Harry Potter when he first visits Diagon Alley. You don’t know where to look because everything seems interesting. People were drawn to the booths that were there, because they managed to be bigger and brighter than the environment around them. The booths at anime conventions often have activities you can interact with. Whether it’s merchandise or games, there is always something you can put your hands on. When I attended AWP in 2014, most of the booths only promoted free merchandise. Nothing was particularly interactive.

Though AWP is a lot less visually stimulating than an anime convention, I still began to brainstorming the aesthetic of our booth. Arkana could afford to be a lot less flashy than an anime convention, and still be visually appealing.

In order to invite visitors to our booth, we included several items on our table. For vertical appeal, we had a large banner that advertised the conference. For horizontal, we also had a banner that stretched across the bottom of the table that presented us as the UCA MFA program. We had various flyers, informational papers, and even stickers on the booth tables.

We also had a “Poet-tree” made from the branches of an actual tree, that at first blended into the black curtain that served as our separator from other booths. But as visitors began writing on the green paper “leaves” we provided, and hung them on the tree, they provided eye-catching pops of color on the dark backgrounds.

The “Poet-Tree” also doubled as an activity, something we could invite passersby to contribute to. It was something no other booth had.

We had another highly visual activity to draw people in. One of the other faculty members at UCA had happened upon a bubble cup vending machine at a flea market. They later found some cups for that machine, and—luckily for us‚—she was willing to let us use it for our booth at AWP.

We filled the capsules with candy, excerpts from women writers and Arkana contributors, and stickers, and invited attendees to donate a couple of quarters to win the prize.

All of these things really encouraged others to visit our table. Throughout the event, we received comments about how we were the most interesting table they passed by.

But there was really only one thing that really made us successful. If we hadn’t acquired a “Poet-Tree,” or a vending machine, or even tables at all, we could have succeeded with just one thing…our people.

With toothy grins, we stood out in the walkways of the Book Fair, greeting anyone who walked by. We offered flyers, compliments, and conversation. We were almost impossible to ignore. If we were sitting behind the table, it was because we were on break, or needed more supplies to hand out.

We were passionately involved in the process of pulling people in, and it showed. It helped that we truly believed in the organizations we were prompting, and particularly, the mission of Arkana. Our booth was certainly one of the busiest tables, and perhaps one of the most engaging booths at AWP.

While I worked the booth, all I could think of was 2014 me stepping forward and really getting involved in the world of writing conventions and submissions. It was one of the most thrilling and exciting literary experiences of my life. I am already eagerly planning on how to improve our booth for next year.


Mikayla Davis is a UCA MFA candidate who specializes in poetry while dabbling in fiction. After getting her undergraduate degree at Eastern Washington University, she got lost in two-year business degrees from the local community college before finding her way back to the page. She has a love for cats and magic and has been published in various print and online journals.

Can We Make Money Like Web Comics?

A conversation paraphrased in comic form.

by Shua Miller, Scriptwriting Editor

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I formed all of my opinions from reading these articles:

“Web Comics Send Readers Looking for Books” by Douglas Wolk

“Web Comics: Page Clickers to Page Turners” by Heidi MacDonald

“Inside the Economics of Digital Comics with Todd Allen” by Rob Salkowitz

“Trotman Talks Templar” by Brigid Alverson

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Shua Miller is a candidate in the Arkansas Writers MFA Workshop and a producer/director/actor/designer/tech guy at The Lantern Theatre. He writes a little of everything, including about himself in the third person. You can follow his tweets of nonsense.

ARKANA UPDATE

by the Arkana Staff

Good news, folks—the second issue of Arkana is on the way! On Monday we met to discuss each editorial team’s picks for work to be included in the journal, and we’re super excited about the literature that will soon reside on our website. Poems, nonfiction, fiction, and perhaps less traditional genres (you’ll have to read the issue to find out what) will be displayed online for your perusal.

You want a space to reflect where silenced voices can be heard? Well, we have the lit for you.

And to celebrate the launch of our second issue in April we’ll be having a launch party at the Lantern Theatre here in Conway, Arkansas. At the party, we the staff will come together and celebrate by reading from our published works, discussing craft and connecting themes, and explaining how the work points right back to our lovely mission statement.

We’ll also have some cool stuff heating up on our blog. Soon we’ll be featuring short series of posts by members of the staff. These posts will pop up every couple of weeks and will cover topics diverse in scope and subject matter, highlighting our various interests and voices.

The blog will also feature letters from the editors of Arkana. Want to know more about the submission process? Want to know how the pieces of each issue fit together? Want to know more about Arkana’s place in the larger literary landscape? Check out our forthcoming editor letters to learn more about what makes the behind the scenes world of Arkana tick, and how each issue and work included in each issue comes together to promote our mission to “foster a sense of shared wonder by privileging art that asks questions, explores mystery, and to discover and uncover the overlooked, the misunderstood, and the silent.”

For the rest of this month we’ll post on our blog and be busy putting together the next issue of the journal, which comes out in late April. In the meantime, check out our older blog posts or our last issue.

Exciting stuff is happening here at Arkana. We’re glad that you’re a part of it!

Everything is Now Political

The future of the literary journal in the age of Trump.

by Mark Lager, Poetry Reader

“Everything is now political. We have the responsibility to make the political personal.”

Roxane Gay challenged booksellers with this statement. She challenged booksellers to extend their scope beyond their usual predominantly suburban, predominantly white demographics. She challenged booksellers to share marginalized voices. She cited as examples bookstores in Detroit, Milwaukee, and Los Angeles that had reached out to minority communities.

She had already caused controversy in the publishing industry by withdrawing her new book How To Be Heard from Simon & Schuster as an act of dissent. Some commentators had criticized her demonstration as another posturing of political correctness. They were wrong in their assumptions. Her choice was a bold and courageous move.

Simon & Schuster’s imprint, Threshold, had originally planned on publishing the book Dangerous by the alt-right firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos. His speeches and writings have tapped into much of the same misogynistic and xenophobic fears and hatreds which fueled the ascendancy and election of Donald Trump. Protests against his college tour turned explosive in California on the campuses of UC Davis and UC Berkeley.

Despite his disgusting and divisive rhetoric, the ACLU decided to defend his First Amendment free speech rights. Censoring Milo Yiannopoulos and others like him reinforces his supporters’ suspicions of the liberal media, which will only encourage even more dangerous and outrageous alt-right agitprop. Censorship is never the answer. Counterdemonstrations are essential and important.

Simon & Schuster eventually did the right thing: they canceled the publication of Dangerous. However, the burning question still remains: how many more major booksellers will consider publishing someone like Milo Yiannopoulos in the first place? Will the publishing industry’s attention seeking (through a figure like Milo) continue?

Joy Peskin of Farrar, Straus and Giroux has detected a disturbing pattern here between the political and publishing worlds: “It’s not a coincidence that Trump went from a reality television star to president of the United States, thanks, in part, to the radicalization of the white working class. And a lot of the leg work was done by Milo and his mentor, Steve Bannon…If you think Trump’s presidency is the last gasp of the white male patriarchy, think again.”

Authors, booksellers, bookstores, and literary magazines need to step up to the plate as Roxane Gay has done. They need to address the issue of inclusiveness. This is absolutely fundamental now because of the forces of bigotry and racism previously beneath the surface but now unleashed by the presidency of Trump.  Literary journals must create communities of marginalized voices, what Roxane Gay recently nicknamed “sacred spaces” so that writing will progress, not regress, in this current charged climate.

Minorities have always faced an uphill battle in their writing being published and now this could only get worse if literary journals do not continue to disseminate these voices.

John Freeman argues that an alternative to the contemporary literary magazine is one which is international. Freeman says that “corrective narratives” are necessary right now in order to counteract the dominant capitalist and corporate narratives being used to manipulate the populace. However, Freeman also says that these narratives themselves should not be didactic on a moral or political level. They should simply present a region of human life which goes against these narratives.

Can a piece of poetry or fiction accomplish this ambition without being political? According to Roxane Gay’s more radical stance, this is no longer viable.

“The overlooked, the misunderstood, and the silent” are the voices which Arkana promises to share with the world in our mission statement. We have included voices which contemplate the complexities of life in China and London, of genocide in the Middle East, among other voices. All literary journals need to keep pushing themselves beyond their borders. It is only through this process that we will be able to combat the insular mindset which has prevented progress for such a long time and create communities which are truly inclusive.


Mark Lager is currently enrolled in the MFA in Creative Writing program at the University of Central Arkansas. His work has been published in Chiron Review, Circumference, Columbia Journal, and Denver Quarterly.